Singer/songwriter to partner with Eb + Flo.

Singer/songwriter Chris Rice, the flagship artist for Michael W. Smith's Rocketown label, is exiting the roster to become a partner in Eb + Flo Records, Billboard.biz has learned.

Rice joins label founder Monroe Jones and drummer Ken Lewis as partners in the Nashville-based label. His new studio album will be released on Eb + Flo in August in association with INO Records. INO, who is distributed to the general market through Epic, will handle the marketing and distribution to the Christian market.

"It is not a typical label," Rice says of Eb + Flo's distribution agreements. "We have a lot of freedom to connect with other labels and distributors to find other ways to create kind of hybrid situations for each artist or project."

Rice was the first signing to Rocketown in 1996 and his out-of-the box success helped establish the fledgling label. Rice says the split was amicable and simply resulted from his desire to broaden his audience. He still plans to create music that reflects his faith but says, "I don't want to have it limited to how we market it and where we market it. I don't want it to be just for one group of people."

Jones, an acclaimed producer whose credits include Rice, Third Day, Mark Schultz and Salvador, launched Eb + Flo in late 2002. He partnered with Universal South for distribution of the Steven Delopoulos project and, most recently, Holly Williams' debut album.

Rice says he looks forward to working with INO president Jeff Moseley. "They've already proven to have an amazing track record," he says of the label's multi-format success with MercyMe. "We found someone who has a great way of working both the Christian market, but also has very good connections in the general market as well."